In Defense of Selfishness Book Summary - In Defense of Selfishness Book explained in key points
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In Defense of Selfishness summary

Peter Schwartz

Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive

2.9 (57 ratings)
14 mins

Brief summary

In 'In Defense of Selfishness', Peter Schwartz argues that selfishness is not a vice but a virtue. He makes a case for rational egoism and individualism, suggesting that they are essential for leading a productive life and achieving happiness.

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    In Defense of Selfishness
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    Altruism is a harmful doctrine that propagates self-sacrifice and subordination.

    Does altruism pave the way to honesty and integrity? Can it bring about equality and social harmony? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you're wrong!

    Nearly everyone assumes that it’s moral to put others before yourself; even people who choose to behave unethically usually don't question the theoretical value of altruism. However, the real consequences of altruism are rarely investigated.

    Altruism is about subordinating yourself, because it requires servitude, not benevolence. Generously helping a victim of misfortune is not enough; rather, this doctrine of self-sacrifice claims you owe an unchosen debt to which the recipient is morally entitled.

    Altruism requires you to put other people's interests before your own and suggests you have no moral right to exist for your own sake. So, to be altruistic, you must be prepared to sacrifice your wealth, goals and interests.

    In other words, altruism effectively takes away your possessions, money, time and possibly even your life. Those things are no longer yours, as they now belong to the larger group or society. You surrender yourself for the good of the group; effectively, you're now serving those who have less.

    A recent proposal regarding airline safety in the US illustrates the illogical nature of altruism. Many airlines forbid blind people from sitting in emergency rows; this policy, however, was opposed by the New York chapter of the National Federation of the Blind as discriminatory. The NFB proposed blind people be allowed to sit in the emergency rows. This proposal even turned into a Senate bill, which would endanger everyone on the plane in the name of equality – or, in other words, altruism.

    In a purely altruistic view, there are only two kinds of people: those who have needs and those who can ensure that those needs are met. That's why governments constantly sap money from those who are able to provide and give it to those who aren't. Governments often subsidize transportation or farming, for instance. People accept these policies because of their altruistic nature, not because of their moral righteousness.

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    What is In Defense of Selfishness about?

    In Defense of Selfishness (2015) exposes the dark side of an attribute most of us assume to be good: altruism. It explains why, despite common misconception, altruism is harmful, devaluing both individuals and societies at large – and why selfishness is the alternative that can provide us with liberation.

    In Defense of Selfishness Review

    In Defense of Selfishness (2015) by Peter Schwartz is a thought-provoking exploration of the virtue of selfishness and how it contributes to a thriving society. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • It offers a compelling argument for the ethical significance of self-interest, challenging traditional notions of altruism and self-sacrifice.
    • By presenting real-world examples and logical reasoning, the book provides a fresh perspective on the importance of pursuing one's own happiness.
    • The book's clear and concise explanations make it easy to understand, even for those who are new to the subject matter, ensuring that it remains engaging throughout.

    Who should read In Defense of Selfishness?

    • Anyone who’s ever felt guilty about being selfish
    • Skeptics of the welfare state
    • Those interested in the harms of altruism

    About the Author

    Peter Schwartz is retired Chairman of the Board of Directors and current Distinguished Fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute. In Defense of Selfishness is his third book.

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    In Defense of Selfishness FAQs 

    What is the main message of In Defense of Selfishness?

    The main message of In Defense of Selfishness is that being selfish is rational and moral.

    How long does it take to read In Defense of Selfishness?

    The reading time for In Defense of Selfishness varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is In Defense of Selfishness a good book? Is it worth reading?

    In Defense of Selfishness is a worthwhile read for those interested in exploring the moral aspects of selfishness.

    Who is the author of In Defense of Selfishness?

    The author of In Defense of Selfishness is Peter Schwartz.

    What to read after In Defense of Selfishness?

    If you're wondering what to read next after In Defense of Selfishness, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
    • How to Stay Sane by Philippa Perry
    • The Power of Bad by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister
    • You Do You by Sarah Knight
    • The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
    • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
    • How to Walk into a Room by Emily P. Freeman
    • I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brené Brown
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don't Do by Amy Morin
    • Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday